State of California Goes After Sellers of Unauthorized "got milk?" T-Shirts.

SANTA ANA, May 4, 2009 -- The Secretary of the Department of Food & Agriculture filed suit today in reaction to sales of T-shirts capitalizing on the "got milk?" advertising campaign.

The got milk? ad campaign was instituted in 1993 by the California Milk Processor Board to increase the sales of fluid milk. GOT MILK? has been federally registered in connection with association services in addition to printed materials, novelty items, toys and glassware.

Federal trademark registrations typically provide benefits only to the goods or services specified in the registration. However, the benefits of registration can be extended to "expansion" goods and services that are reasonably foreseeable or when a trademark become famous. The California Milk Processor Board claims the mark is famous.

The defendants accused of selling the "offending" T-shirts are: North Carolina's Americhoice Gifts, Inc., North Carolina's Balloons Inc., William Grubbs, Ron Grubbs, and 10 individuals designed Jon Does.

In addition to a claims trademark infringement, the California Department of Food & Agriculture also claims causes of action for trademark dilution, and false designation of origin. The California Milk Processor Board is seeking the destruction of the shirts, an award comprising the profits generated by the defendants, and a permanent injunction prohibiting use of the mark in the future.

In assessing damages of a federally registered trademark, the court may enter judgment for any sum above the amount found as actual damages, up to three times. When a court finds a defendant intentionally counterfeited a registered trademark, the court must, unless the court finds extenuating circumstances, enter judgment for three times such profits or damages, whichever is greater, together with a reasonable attorney’s fee unless the Plaintiff elects for statutory damages up to $1,000,000 per counterfeit mark per type of goods or services sold, offered for sale, or distributed.

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